HM Submarine Snapper
Snapper was built under the 1932 submarine building programme and laid down on 18 September 1933. She was launched by Lady Tweedie, wife of the C-in-C at The Nore. Vice Admiral Sir Hugh J.Tweedie. KCB. on 25 October 1934.
She was the eighth vessel of the name, the first being in 1782.
Following the launch, she moved from the river into the basin via the north lock at 1330 on the same day.
Snapper began her sea trials on Monday 29 April 1935. A log showing the daily events of these trials can be accessed from the button on the right of this page.
Completed on 14 June 1935 she sailed from Chatham to join the Flotilla at Portsmouth.
In 1936 she left the UK to join the 1st Submarine Flotilla in the Mediterranean and remained on station up to the outbreak of WW2.
On 14 October 1939 she departed the Mediterranean and returned to the UK. After a very brief stop at Portsmouth she moved around the coast to Sheerness. From here, under the command of Lt. W.D.A King, Snapper would carry out her first war patrol before moving to the 3rd Flotilla at Harwich.
In late November 1939, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau left Wilhelmshaven. Various boats sailed from ports around the UK to intercept. Snapper sailed with Sunfish from Harwich. The latter taking patrol to the east of the Declared Area and Snapper to the west.
During the first week in December weather conditions were not good and while patrolling off Texel, Snapper had difficulty depth keeping in the shallow water. While on the surface she ran aground on a sandbank but managed to work herself off. This was not a good time for Snapper as she was later bombed by Coastal Command but without damage. It is possible that this attack was the inspiration for Nevil Shutes novel Landfall.
During January 1940 in the Terschelling area, she had problems with the main battery but was able to complete her patrol.
In February her patrol to investigate the German route of the declared minefield area was cut short when the gyrocompass failed.
April was a good month for Snapper . On 12th she attacked with two torpedoes the tanker Moonsund of 320 tons but missed, so chased her on the surface and sunk her with a gun action.
On 14th she attacked two transports and sank the German merchant ship Florida of 6100 tons. She was then counter attacked but received no damage.
The 15th saw her fire four torpedoes at what was believed to be a convoy. She hit with two and sank the minesweepers M1701 525 tons and M1702 470 tons. There followed the inevitable counter attacked but she managed to escape without damage.
In May 1940, Snapper joined the 3rd Flotilla based at Rosyth and on 9th May the Commanding Officer, Lt King was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
On 25 June Snapper torpedoed and sank the German armed trawler V 1107 of 280 tons off the south coast of Norway.
In July she sank the Cygnus of 1300 tons and was then counter attacked by a Dornier Bomber but again without damage.
During October off Muckle Flugge a U-Boat could be heard but could not be seen so no attack was made. At the end of this patrol Snapper went into Portsmouth for a refit.
With the exception of the last and fatal patrol, Lt King commanded all war patrols carried out by Snapper .
In December 1940, Lt. King was ill with Flu and Lt G.V Prowse took command of the boat for the next patrol. Sadly on this, the first war patrol following her refit, Snapper was lost with all hands.
Snapper could have run into a German minefield. However, it is also possible that she was attacked and sunk by German Minesweepers. Reports after the war show three Minesweepers operating in the area of Snapper's patrol. On 10/11th February they attacked a submarine with a total of 56 depth charges.
Lt King DSO DSC was one of only two officers who survived the whole of the war in command of submarines.
Lt. King (After Snapper )
Lt. King went on to command the submarines Trusty and Telemachus. During his time on Trusty, Lt. King went to the fall of Singapore where he sank a 20,000 ton transport, damaged a Japanese Gunboat in a surface night action and shot down a number of Japanese fighter bombers during the Easter day raid on Colombo. They also salvaged a merchant vessel.
Later during his time in the Far East, Lt. King operated with no Admiral, Captain S/M, Depot, Depot ship, orders, intelligence, pay or food.
When attempting to collect food from a vituling yard, his crew were fired on by the Japanese. They had to sail and spent the next five days living on a plastic container of Australian food they managed to get on board.
My thanks to Commander King DSO, DSC for supplying me with information of his time on Snapper , Trusty and Telemachus.
Commander King went on to write several books including 'The Stick and the Stars' in 1958 which was republished in 1983 as 'Dive and Attack' a submariner's story, 'Capsize' in 1969 about yachting and 'Adventure in Depth' 1975, yachting voyage around the world.
Commander King died 21 September 2012 aged 102 years at his home in Galway, Ireland.